Temple of the Black Star
The release of 2011’s Swallowing the Sun was a break-out moment for Winnipeg’s Distorted Memory. The dark electro of their debut album was still the template, but it was tempered with a more global set of sounds, both in the use of eastern instrumentation, the black metal vocal style, and the callbacks to the atmospherics that were central to the genre in its 90s heyday. Given that sense of progression and willingness to try new things, it’s exceptionally pleasing to see Distorted Memory’s Jeremy Pillipow reaching even further into new territory with his new single Temple of the Black Star, specifically into the fertile post-witch house sounds that have been something of a recent obsession here at I Die: You Die.
The premise behind the release is simple enough; 8 different artists remix the “Temple of the Black Star” instrumental by Distorted Memory, with Pillipow then mixing each of the versions into one continuous piece of music. In contrast to the standard remix single modus operandi of enlisting artists to get a wide variety of different takes on the original song, Pillipow has elected to engage artists of a decidedly complimentary stripe. That gives Temple of the Black Star a curatorial feel. Rather than simply being a showcase or promotional tool for Distorted Memory, it plays as a snapshot of a specific moment in the development of an aesthetic. Since the artists tapped include both folks originating from the rapidly melting witch house scene and similarly minded folks from the industrial end of the pool, there’s a case to be made for Temple of the Black Star being the first genuine compilation of the material we jokingly dubbed “Witch Haus Der Lüge”.
As a stylistic experiment, it works, and no small part of that is due to the fact that the original song (“First Movement – Temple of the Black Star”) is effectively a blank slate for the various remixers to apply their variations of a shared sound. Playing as an extension of the tribal-influenced instrumentals on Swallow the Sun minus any dark electro inflections, it’s just enough of a cypher that when it gives away to ∆AIMON’s atmospheric washes of strings and keys on “Second Movement” the change is almost imperceptible. That isn’t accidental; beyond selecting for compatibility with the single’s concept, Distorted Memory takes on the role of arranger and conservator. The net effect is palpable: M‡яc▲ll▲’s snappy drums and rolling synthlines are sandwiched between V▲LH▲LL’s marching intensity and a decidedly minimal take by Pillipow’s own Deathaus side-project to the benefit of all the songs involved. Individually any of the tracks plays fine (BLVCK CEILING’s shoegazey walls of noise and the newly rechristened C/∆/T’s trap beats n’ bass blasts are stand-outs) but in context with the other 40 minutes of music they achieve a sum greater than the simple addition of each part.
It’ll probably be unsurprising for followers of ID:UD that this sort of thing is directly up the alley we’ve been hanging out in of late. It’s all well and good for us to draw lines between artists on either side of the divide between industrial and it’s sub-categories and the new wave of slow and spooky electronic music (I’m sticking doggedly to post-witch house as a descriptor, bite me), but a release like Temple of the Black Star is an actual bridge, a concrete example of commonalities and sympathetic sensibilities. It’s an inversion of the average remix single, a release that values cohesion and sequencing and that makes an artistic statement with implications beyond Distorted Memory’s own discography. Recommended.